The USC Situation And Tide Football

When I think of Southern Cal, I usually think of huge Alabama football victories, such as the 1971 season-opener when Bama went to the Coliseum, unveiled the wishbone, and handed the No 1 Trojans a loss and Coach Paul Bryant his 200th career victory. But other developments regarding Southern Cal have been on my mind recently.



USC has been much in the news following the NCAA's determination that football, basketball and tennis had been in violation of rules. The emphasis is on football.

Thus far, the USC situation only peripherally affects Alabama. The Trojans are not going to be in bowl games for two years (unless a Southern Cal appeal gives USC the relief of one bowl game back). And the Trojans are not going to be considered in the Coaches Poll while on bowl ban, this season for sure.

There are other areas that have had USC in the news. David Price, the director of enforcement for the NCAA who was considered by some to be a Pac-10 and Big Ten protector, has announced his retirement. This seems as good a place as any to point out that those in the real world would have reason to believe that incompetence and/or laziness is rampant in the NCAA bureaucracy and its committees on infractions and appeals.

Back to the subject: there have been three areas in which USC football has been hurt. One is scholarship limits, and there is really no reason for the Trojans to appeal the loss of 30 scholarships. New USC Coach Lane Kiffen is on record as saying that won't affect his team.

Keep on believing that.

The others are the bowl/poll rule and the transfer rule.

Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, said it was correct that USC not be considered in the Coaches Poll because the Trojans have suffered a major probation that includes a bowl ban.

From an Alabama standpoint, the bowl ban seems fair. Alabama had a bowl ban and (like USC) also had a bowl victory vacated. The Crimson Tide and Trojans are neck-and-neck in all-time bowl victories at 32 on-the-field, 31 by NCAA logic.

Not being in the Coaches Poll is nothing more than a minor affront to the Trojans. What it really does is weaken the poll. If USC is one of the nation's best teams, the fact USC is on probation has nothing to do with that.

Assuming a team wants to be measured against the best, no one should object to USC being in the poll. The Coaches Poll is used in BCS calculations, but that could hardly be the impediment to including the Trojans.

NCAA sanctions will not keep USC from consideration in the Associated Press' poll, which withdrew from being a component of the BCS formula.

In an e-mail to the Los Angeles Times, in which she said USC would keep its 2004 AP national title, AP Sports Editor Terry Taylor said: "The poll is intended to measure on-field performance. If teams are allowed to play, they're allowed to be ranked and USC certainly played in 2004."

Alabama has been a part of the Trojans' penalty regarding transfers, but it was an incident that served to confirm that the inmates are running the USC asylum. Out of no where, USC tailback Dillon Baxter said he had been contacted by a number of schools, Alabama among them. The Trojans' director of compliance (who is probably not on any other college's search list) sent letters to Alabama and the others charging tampering.

Later, Mike Garrett, the director of athletics for USC ("Still?" you say), wrote a most lame letter of apology to Alabama. Among other things he said that since he had confirmed Baxter had lied that "USC has no intention of pursuing this matter further."

Somehow I don't picture Alabama Athletics Mal Moore reading that letter and saying, "Whew!"

It does bring up the issue of transfers. Players for a school banned from bowl participation are permitted to transfer without having to sit out if the bowl ban would prohibit them having an opportunity to play in a bowl game for the remainder of their careers. In the case of Southern Cal, that means juniors and seniors.

USC has lost at least one player. Back-up defensive end Malik Jackson is tranferring to, ironically, Tennessee, the school from which Kiffen bolted after one year to go to USC just in time to get the full frontal barrage that should have hit former Trojans Coach Pete Carroll.

The bowl out is probably a phony one for most players who would transfer. It is convenient, though, for someone like Jackson, who didn't mention the bowl ban, but did mention the possibility of more playing time.

The NCAA needs to take a hard look at its transfer rules. Is the organization at all for the players, or just in it for the money the players generate?

Close to home is the recent case of tight end Colin Peek, who just completed his college career with one year on the field at Alabama. He had originally signed with Georgia Tech, but when the Yellow Jackets hired Paul Johnson as head coach, Tech no longer needed a tight end. Johnson's offense doesn't use one. Peek transferred, but still had to sit out a season.

Yeah, yeah. A player signs with the school, not the coach. But if he is recruited to play a position, and then that position changes dramatically or is eliminated, why should the player be penalized? And never forget that a player is on a one-year scholarship. The school can cut him for any reason or no reason prior to every season.

There can't be willy-nilly transfers. That would keep coaches busy re-recruiting their disenchanted players every year. But a better system needs to be in place to consider the special situations such as that of Colin Peek.

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